One Body-Part 1
When you read through the New Testament you will find a few key themes. One of the most common themes in the New Testament is unity of the Church. In fact, the New Testament repeatedly compares the Church to a body and even calls us the Body of Christ. For example, in Ephesians chapter 4, where Paul is talking about pastors and says in verse 12, “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” And again just a few verses later in verse 15 where he says, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” And back in verse 13, he says, “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” We will never measure up to Christ’s standard until we are united, as one body. Let me be clear here, in order for anyone to be part of this Body they must first trust in Christ. Acts 4:11-12 says, “11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ 12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Yes, we need to all be united, as one Body, under one Savior and must agree that salvation comes by God’s grace through faith in what Christ did on the cross. We can disagree on anything else, although if we all stop trying to interpret the Bible and start taking it literally, in context, as a whole, we won’t disagree on nearly as much.
One great example of this is in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 where we find Paul talking about the gifts of the Spirit. Here Paul was having issues with the church at Corinth claiming that there were certain gifts that all Christians must have, a claim that some still make to this day. In this part of his letter, he is explaining that we can’t all have the same gifts, so he uses this analogy of the Body to explain the gifts. In the first eleven verses, he explains how one Spirit gives all the gifts, as seen in verses 4 and 5, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord.” So, no one gift is greater than another, they are all given by the same Spirit to serve the same Lord. Then in verses 12 through 31 he goes on to talk about the different parts of the Body and how these gifts fit in. He starts out in verse 12 by saying, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” Then, over the next 15 verses, he talks about how these gifts relate to the parts of the body and how the Church couldn’t survive if everyone was a mouth, or if everyone was a hand. We must take the gifts that God has given us and work with them. So, if your gift is teaching, you shouldn’t say I wish my gift was healing. You must be the best teacher you can be for Christ. Verse 27 says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” Think about your own body. You know that if you put your hand on the stove when it’s turned on, it will burn. But, what if your hand chose not to believe that? Will your hand not get burned, simply because it chose not to interpret pain as something else? Of course not. We all have different gifts, but we are all part of the same body, so we must work together in order to function. So, if anyone ever tells you that you must have a certain gift to be a real believer, take them to this passage.
Paul also uses The Lord’s Supper to demonstrate unity. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 it says, “16When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body.” For this reason, in our Church gatherings, we always used one loaf of communion bread instead of the little wafers. Of course, I’m not saying that this is a biblical mandate, I just liked to use it to remind our local Body about unity every time we observed The Lord’s Supper.
Unity in the human body is extremely important, but the unity of the Body of Christ is even more important. Check in on Thursday as we conclude this discussion in my next installment.
One Body-Part 2
Continuing where we left off last time, in Ephesians 2:14-16 Paul tells us that Christ used His death on the cross to unite us into one Body, “14For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.” And, again in Ephesians 3:6 “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.” So, let’s talk about prejudice…Yep, I’m going there. I have known people who call themselves Christians and are prejudice against people of different races. I have even been in churches and heard pastors make racist remarks and try to justify it with the Bible. If you are a Christ follower, there are only two types of people; saved and lost. If they are saved, we are part of the same body and must love them. If they are lost, the only hope we have of winning them to Christ is if we love them. There is no place for hate in the Christian life.
I sat through a sermon one time where the pastor kept repeating I Hate Catholics. After the service, I went to him and said, “God doesn’t hate Catholics, in fact, God doesn’t hate anyone. He didn’t even hate Osama Bin Laden. God loved him so much, He sent His son to die for him. But God was sad that he chose not to follow Him.” You see, God loves us all equally. There isn’t a person on this earth that Christ didn’t die for. C.S. Lewis said it best when he said, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals who we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.” Everyone you meet on the street has an immortal soul, and that’s what we should be looking at. We should have compassion on them and pray for them. The Bible never says that they will know we are Christians by our steeple, or by our stained-glass windows, but Jesus did say in John13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” They will know we are Christians by our Love!
And, of course, every body must have a head to survive. Colossians 1:18 says, “Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.” And in Colossians 2:19 “and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.” The body can survive without a lot of its parts, but not without a head. Christ is the head of the Church, He is the head of His body. Because He is our head, we must go where the head leads, we must do what the head tells us to do, and we must honor the head. The unity of the Church is dependent on Christ and is because of Christ. Colossians 1:22 “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” We appear holy and blameless before God because of what Christ did on the cross. We should all be willing to suffer for the body like our head suffered for the body. Paul considered it an honor to be able to suffer for the body, Colossians 1:24 “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church.” The Bible never says we will have an easy life here on earth, in fact, it says the exact opposite. In 2 Timothy 3:12 it says, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” And, also in John 16:33 it says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” So, when we suffer, not if we suffer, we need to have Paul’s attitude toward it and glory in the fact that we can suffer for the body of Christ.
Because we are part of the Body with Christ as the head, we must be thankful because we have a peace that surpasses the ability to understand it. Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” Also in Ephesians 2:14, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.”
We’ve all heard sermons on 2 Chronicles 7:14, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” But, we must take this passage seriously. “If my people”, this is a call to the body, not just part of it, but all of it. You may grow your church, you may become a mega church, and you will probably bring people to Christ along the way. But, if we have any chance of changing our world, we must unite as the body of Christ, and humble ourselves and pray, we must seek His face and turn from our wicked and divisive ways. Then, and only then, will He hear our prayer, forgive our sin, and heal our land. We like to blame all the problems of the world on everyone else, but the truth is we, the Church, are at fault! We are to blame for the immorality, we are to blame for our nation turning away from God, we are even to blame for groups like Isis getting a stronghold on the world. If we truly want to be world changers, we must repent and unite as one body.
I’d like to end this with Paul’s words, Ephesians 4:1 “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” If you are a Christ follower, you have been called by God for a purpose. We must live worthy of that high calling. To do so, we must put aside our petty differences and unite for one cause, for the glory of one God, by the power of one Spirit, under one head…Christ!